The last time I transited in Tokyo Narita International Airport was two years ago when Chris and I were passing through to and from Taiwan. I remember thinking that on our way back to New York, I wanted to stop by one of the duty-free shops, Akihabara, to pick up some Royce chocolate that I love. In Japan, these Royce Nama chocolates are only the equivalent of $4-5 USD, while at the duty-free shop at Narita, they are around $6 USD. However, if you want to buy them in the U.S. at an official Royce shop, like the ones that are in New York City, for the same box, you’d pay $18 USD, which is crazy! I understand why they would do this from a capitalistic, money-making perspective, but on the consumer side, there’s no way I would be that desperate to pay over three times as much for the same product, even if I only pass through Tokyo every few years. These are little luxuries I can live without.
Two years ago, though, I failed at my attempt to buy them because the line for checkout at this duty-free shop was far out of the store and snaking out. I couldn’t believe that I was seeing this with my own eyes; the wait would have been at least 45 minutes in line, not to mention all the aggressive Chinese tourists literally sweeping up shelves and shelves of products into their shopping carts. Others were running around chaotically, grabbing whatever was available and barely even looking at what they were snatching up to buy. I was really upset then and determined to make sure I actually came out successful this time. And I was successful this time at two different stores, one without even a minute’s wait. There was slightly less aggression from Chinese tourists, but this time, I noticed that some of the people buying multiple shopping carts-worth of Japanese chocolate and green-tea biscuits were not just Chinese this time, but white American and European tourists! More competition at duty-free now! It seems like everyone is discovering all these Japanese sweets and wanting to take them home, both for themselves and as well as their family and friends as gifts.